With real estate listings, the number of bedrooms is important, of course, but here’s a close second: the number of bathrooms.
Let’s face it: In a pinch, siblings can share a bedroom and guests can crash on a couch. But only one individual can use the loo at a time.
And this is why a home with just one bathroom makes many recoil in horror.
Nonetheless, plenty of home buyers, especially younger ones, may find themselves perusing listings with one sole bathroom and have to ponder this uncomfortable possibility: Is one bathroom enough? It may seem OK if you’re single (or part of a very close couple), but how will this work if you have kids, or guests?
To help you understand what having a one-bathroom home is truly like, we spoke to a handful of homeowners who’ve made do with this living scenario and lived to tell the tale. Here are a few realities to prepare for—plus some helpful advice on how to make it work.
‘It’s a miracle we didn’t kill each other’
Jayne Wallace grew up in a Philadelphia row house with just one bathroom for seven family members. Seven!
“It’s a miracle we didn’t kill each other,” she admits. “It wasn’t unusual at all for my sister to be in the shower, me to be on the toilet, and my mom at the sink brushing her teeth.”
It’s unfortunate, but the hard truth is when you share one bathroom, the toilet is often the biggest source of tension.
“If we’ve been on a lengthy road trip, we all fight to get to the commode first,” says Margaret Hayes, who lives in Cincinnati with her husband and two teenage children—and just one bathroom.
Sometimes, this calls for some backup measures.
“I once went to our next-door neighbor’s house to use the toilet,” Wallace recalls.
Who showers first?
To share one bathroom with a lot of people, many families create a shower schedule to ensure everyone gets their turn. Wallace says she and her sister typically showered in the evening (so they would have time to wash their hair), and her older brothers showered in the morning.
“There was a bit of jockeying, but gender grouping usually solved that,” she says.
Jennifer Snyder’s family used a different approach.
“When I had two [school-aged children] and a toddler at home, we had a distinct order in which we showered, and most of that was based on bedtime,” says Snyder, whose family of five lived in a one-bathroom home in Waco, TX, for nearly 20 years.
Moreover, many families are concerned the hot water will run out —and that someone will be faced with the uncomfortable indignity of an ice-cold shower. Hayes says her family developed a system to address this.
“The kids shower in the evening, the hubby in the morning before work, and I a few minutes after him, having allowed the hot water to replenish itself,” Hayes explains.
Whose stuff goes where?
Another challenge of sharing a single bathroom with a large household is figuring out how to squeeze everyone’s shampoos, towels, and other bathroom necessities into one room.
Jennifer Terry of Oxford, PA, knows this firsthand. Last year, her house of six shared only one full bathroom.
“At one point my husband counted 25 items—shampoo, conditioner bottles, loofahs, razors, etc.—in the shower,” she says.
Terry’s solution? She gave each family member a bin labeled with his or her name on it, which was then stashed on a bathroom shelf. Here’s a photo of her storage system:
Pretty bathroom decor? Not a chance
While adding pizazz to your bathroom sounds nice in theory, it’s not exactly realistic when you have only one bathroom for an entire household.
“Decorating the small space is nearly impossible,” says Hayes. “Forget about cute soap dishes or framed needlework doilies. We can’t even all hang up our bath towels simultaneously.”
The trouble of having guests over
Lisa Wells lives with her husband and son in an apartment in New York City with one bathroom. Granted, three people to a bathroom may not sound like a big deal (especially when compared with the other families we spoke to), but Wells says the setup still presents issues when family and friends visit.
“The biggest challenge is having your family bathroom serve as a ‘powder room’ when company comes over,” says Wells. “Everything is taken out for the event, candles are lit, hand towels are fanned out—and then when guests leave, everything is swapped out again. It’s a weird mix of personal and private.”
Moral of the story? Plenty of people live in one-bathroom homes, and they get by (and along) just fine, which proves that you can do it, too. So, don’t knock those one-bathroom homes, guys! Or, if you absolutely can’t live with just one, consider a 1.5-bath home instead.